Banff National Park: Mirror Lake + Lake Agnes
I met Keegan through the ironically wonderful world of social media, as I found myself always liking her photos and Instagram stories of her adorable puppy. Just as I realized that she was a fellow lake-lover, she reached out wanting to share her stories of her recent honeymoon to some of Canada's (and the world's) most beautiful lake regions. Keegan is a lifestyle blogger with a passion for travel, fashion & fitness. Follow along at instagram.com/keeganmichellel. Thanks for sharing your honeymoon hike with us, Keegan!
This past year my (now) husband and I were spending most of our time planning our wedding. In the meantime we realized we also needed a honeymoon destination! With everything else needing our attention, we kind of procrastinated in planning. We weren’t even sure where we were going to go until 1-2 months beforehand, but we both made a list of 5 places we thought would make for a good honeymoon, then compared. Come to find out, Banff in Alberta, Canada was the only one that overlapped. So we wasted no more time and booked.
We started in Canmore, which is a 1-hour drive north of the Calgary Airport. We stayed there for the first two nights of our trip. Now, I’m going to be honest, this was not our ideal location for a honeymoon. If you have a large family that you are traveling with and want to stay in a hotel that has a bit more space, a kitchen that you could live in for a few more days, then this is where you want to stay. But after the first day, we realized that we were, at minimum, an hour drive from all of the hikes that we wanted to do! The idea of driving 2+ hours a day, plus the hikes and exploring exhausted us, so we took a chance. We went up to Lake Louise to see if the famous Chateau Fairmont had any rooms available. Let’s just say the Honeymoon Gods were looking down on us, and we were in!
With that said, there is nothing wrong with Canmore! There are some great little restaurants and shops within the downtown area, and from what we heard, there are some good hikes and lakes as well. But since we had limited time (and energy) we knew we wanted to be closer to the action. If you do drive straight to Banff from the airport and need a break in the drive up Highway 1, Canmore is right on the way! There are grocery stores, gas stations, cafes, sports shops, and anything that you might need to load up for your trip!
Banff National Park
Happy Bday Canada! Because Canada turned the big 1-5-0 this year, all car and entrance passes to the park were free! People are right... everyone is nicer in Canada :-) Driving from Canmore to Lake Louise is another hour, but straight from the airport, about two hours total. You’ll want to trade drivers on the way back because seeing the scenery along the drive can be distracting and shouldn’t be missed! Lake Louise is about 45 minutes into the entrance of the park, so you’ll have plenty of time to take in the scenery.
We traveled here mid-July which we were told was the beginning of the VERY busy tourist season. We were pleasantly pleased to find that, it didn’t feel like Disneyland or anything overly touristy. While still busy, it wasn’t unbearable. A huge upside to staying at the Chateau is the parking. If you go early enough, and are in a small enough car, you will probably be fine. But if you take your time, and drive up during the peak hours of just before/after lunch, then odds are you will have to park in one of the satellite lots and take a shuttle to the lake. While it is a popular place to be, we never found the trails to be terribly crowded. And if you’re adventurous enough, you will likely go far enough that the majority of tourists don’t bother to try.
Mirror Lake and Lake Agnes
This was the hike we did our first day staying in Banff. You get to it from the main walkway around Lake Louise, and is about an hour to the end. Lake Agnes features the famous Tea House, so this area can get busy, as people stop for lunch, water break, and pictures, but it is worth it! We had stored away some granola bars in our backpack so we didn’t have to wait in line at the tea house, but we enjoyed our picnic spot, for sure! The contrast in view was breathtaking. Sweating from the walk, in tank tops and shorts, but looking at snow just across the way.
Big and Little Beehive
These were the hikes that I mentioned before. The majority of the tourists didn’t seem to get past the tea house at Lake Agnes, so we had most of these trails and views to ourselves. We started with Big Beehive, which started at the Northwest corner of Lake Agnes. You walk along the eastern side of the lake and find the trailhead to get to the top of Big Beehive just on the other side. You can’t miss it. It’s the trail that starts to go up!
I’m not going to lie, Big Beehive was one of the harder hikes we did on our trip. My husband and I kept saying that it was the altitude, and add in the dozens of switchbacks, we had to work for the view. And I promise, it is worth it. Not only is it a beautiful view of the entire park, but you also cannot beat the view of Lake Louise. However, it’s not for the faint of heart, so if you are afraid of heights, maybe stay in the middle of the peak.
This picture was taken at the hut, which is positioned at the end of the trail. We were thankful it was there when it started to rain for a few minutes. Again, there aren’t many people that venture past the tea house, so there weren’t many people competing for shelter! Keep in mind that when you go on these higher and longer hikes the altitude changes quickly! So not only hard on hydration and fitness, but also in regulating temperature. I’m glad we threw our light sweatshirts in our backpacks, because we needed them... and quick!
Our overall itinerary that day was Lake Louise > Mirror Lake > Lake Agnes > Big Beehive > Little Beehive. The concierge suggested doing it in this order so your legs didn’t get too tired for Big Beehive, if you chose to do that last. To get to Little Beehive we traversed down the switchbacks, the same way we came all the way back to the Tea House. But instead of heading back towards Mirror Lake from Lake Agnes, you follow the trails east which will take you another 20 - 25 minutes. But thankfully, these are fairly flat trails, so your legs will get a bit of a break.
This pictures shows our favorite view from Little Beehive. Lake Louise on the left and Mirror Lake on the right. Make sure you do these hikes on a clear day, because the reflection of the sun off of the water is spectacular! This picture barely does it justice.
At that point we were so tired, but happy to find that the Little Beehive trail back to Lake Louise broke off a bit. So instead of going all the way back to Lake Agnes, and back down, we only had to backtrack about 5-10 minutes before meeting up with the trail to take you back down to the base. The trails all along the way do an amazing job with signage. So if you have a map, but seem to get turned around, just go a few steps further and you will likely find a sign to point you in the right direction.
We’ve done a lot of hiking as a couple, but we both agreed that none compare to the views we got on this day. The effort and time was worth it putting in a full afternoon on your feet. But if you go to Banff and Lake Louise without making these walks up the mountain, you will surely wish that you did!